Has this happened to you?
You have an important presentation to make to a senior leadership group and a big chunk of the time is spent talking about ‘background’.
The leaders ask every question under the sun about the history of the program, what you have done in the past and you find yourself repeating your last five presentations. You use precious face time with them looking backwards rather than looking forwards.
This was a hot topic in today’s coaching session with the Senior People Leader at an Australian retailer.
Let’s look at what was going on before looking at a sanitised version of the before and after.
Here's what was going on : ‘Mary’ was going into way too much detail in the introduction
Mary would brace herself for these discussions as they felt a bit like an interrogation and to head off the questions, she included lots of background up front.
She referred to the history of the People Strategy and went into quite some detail about it.
However, in doing this she was also leaving the door open for questions as the first part of her paper wasn’t a complete summary, or perhaps described past events using new words which piqued the Board’s curiosity.
Her strategy was backfiring.
To avoid this, we suggest tightening your introduction to lead your audience directly where you want them to go (to the So What).
Here are four tips for doing that.
- Assume you must synthesise your context as tightly as you would synthesise your ‘so what’. Even for a lengthy paper, keep the context short, ideally to no more than 2-3 sentences in total.
- Stick to information that is or should be known to the audience.
- Ensure the trigger articulates clearly and simply why you are communicating with this audience about the topic described in the context at this point in time.
- Focus on material that introduces the topic as it stands right now. This will prime your audience on the topic that you want to discuss and open the door for the trigger rather than more questions.
Here’s a sanitised before and after to illustrate.
The ‘Before’ included far too much detail which gave the audience a chance to derail the conversation and not get to the so what
[CONTEXT] Talented people needed to deliver our ambition, has and been remains a business goal. We have focused on talent over the last 3 years – approach largely individualistic and limited by poor capability frames
Our new operating model provides an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves in the talent market – move talent to max value work, no other retailer using this new operating approach, and we can become known for development
We have started implementing a 3-year strategy to drive enterprise talent & capability and that has changed the talent profile through recruitment. Development will be the focus in the following years
We will track impact and manage talent-based risk
[TRIGGER] We have a Talent strategy that we believe will deliver on our goal to win through talent.
[QUESTION] What is your strategy?
The ‘After’ is much tighter all round and led to a tighter discussion around Mary's agenda
[CONTEXT] Moving to the new operating model provides us with an opportunity to differentiate ourselves in the talent market. This enables us to build on the foundations established over the past three years to develop a winning talent strategy.
[TRIGGER] We have a new leading edge Talent strategy that will enable us to capture the full opportunity that our new business model offers us.
[QUESTION] What is your strategy?
I hope that helps and look forward to checking in with you again next week.
PS – We have working sessions this week. Don't forget to register!